Wat Phra That Haripunchai

A highlight of a visit to Lamphun

What we say: 3.5 stars

Yes two whole blog posts on Lamphun! (Whatever next — a feature on Phichit!?) Actually one of the best things about Lamphun is getting there — or away — with the Old Lamphun Road being one of the most scenic roads in the kingdom. The views aren’t anything special but it’s the road itself that’s attractive, with nearly the whole 25km length being lined by tall gracious yang trees. (Note yang is rubber in Thai, though these clearly aren’t rubber trees so we’re not quite sure what they are. If anyone can enlighten us please do!)

Scenic tree-lined traffic policeman

Scenic tree-lined traffic policeman.

The Old Lamphun Road is a continuation of Chang Klan Road and makes for a great, shady cycle or motorbike ride — see map here.

Storm brewing over Prathat Haripunchai

Storm brewing over Prathat Haripunchai.

Anyway Lamphun being perhaps slightly too far to go just to check out one single wat — see our earlier post here — our clear second favourite temple in town was Wat Phrathat Haripunchai. It’s actually the number one destination in Lamphun for local tourists and is indeed one of the most venerated sites in northern Thailand. As we mentioned before, Haripunchai is the name of the old Mon city on the site of modern Lamphun and the main stupa — bit of a ringer for a smaller version of Burma’s famous Shwedagon — is thought to date originally from the ninth century. The wat thus shows Mon, Lanna and Burmese architectural influences since the city was ruled by all three at various times.

Main stupa

Main stupa. Put your sunnies on!

It’s therefore a busy temple — Wat Cham Devi’s tranquil site being the reason why we voted it first — with plenty of visitors from Bangkok and day trippers from Nakhon Sawan, Phitsanolok and so on — so plenty of vendors and indeed a large OTOP (One Tambon One Product, tambon being district) market opposite the entrance by the Ping River.

The Lanna style library

The Lanna-style library.

While on the subject of selling things in temples, we’d like to point out that the sadly common practice of selling small caged birds for release in the hope that it gets you some kind of Buddhist brownie points is for us totally abhorrent — and we’d be very grateful if you didn’t buy any. Half the birds die anyway and most others are re-caught. (Some locals claim the birds are addicted to methamphetamines so they automatically fly back for their dose — not sure if that is true but can’t imagine Buddha in any way supporting this scheme!)

Gold leaf covered stupa

Gold leaf covered stupa

Much more attractive is the spectacular gold leaf chedi: the temple’s central feature and if you want to find a more eco-friendly way of accumulating Buddhist air-miles then the thing to do is to walk around it three times in a clockwise direction.

Circumnavigating it anti-clockwise could be fatal!

Circumnavigating it anti-clockwise could be fatal!

This can be a bit of a circus, especially at weekends, but it’s worth a look if you’re in town. Entrance fee is 20 baht for foreigners.

I'll guarantee he doesn't approve of cruelty to small birds!

I'll guarantee he doesn't approve of cruelty to small birds.

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Facing the Kuang River
Last updated: 23rd September, 2014

About the author:
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
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